By Rosie Milne, Finder Blogger: The Herstory Buff, author of Olivia & Sophia
The Finder‘s latest online contributor just published Olivia & Sophia, a historical novel about Stamford Raffles’ adventures, as seen through the eyes of his two very different wives. Here she discusses where to buy books in Singapore, and good places for book lovers to hang-out.
The three big chains
The three big chains here are Kinokuniya, Times, and Popular. Kinokuniya is a Japanese company, so it carries a range of books in Japanese, as well as in Chinese, and in English. The flagship store is at Ngee Ann City. Times has outlets throughout Singapore and Malaysia. One of their bigger stores is at Centrepoint on Orchard Road, and the company runs the biggest bookshop at Changi Airport. Popular is a local chain, with outlets throughout the island, including Pop Central, at the Brash Basah, complex, which has a good range of English-language titles on offer.
Independent bookshops: BooksActually
Singapore has a small selection of independent bookshops, all deserving of support. BooksActually is amongst the best. Their welcoming store is on Yong Siak Street, in Tiong Bahru, and it is a great place to browse for quirky titles. It carries literary novels, poetry, and works of literary criticism, categories which can sometimes struggle for shelf space elsewhere. BooksActually has a publishing arm, Math Paper Press, which offers a platform to local authors. All-in-all, it is a mainstay of the local literary scene.
Online: Select Books / www.selectbooks.com.sg
Select Books is a local company that has been trading for forty years. It bills itself, with good reason, as The Asian Book Specialist. Select has an unmatched selection of over 30,000 books about the region, ranging from heavy duty statistical analyses of trade, to coffee table art books, to novels and children’s books. It is now mainly an online store, supported by pop-up stores, for example at the Singapore Writers Festival. The extensive database lets staff provide information on titles to meet any requirement. Like BooksActually, Select has a publishing arm; it publishes books on Asia.
As well as housing Pop Central, the Bras Basah complex is where to go to browse for second-hand books. The Chinese name for Bras Basah Complex means “book city” and this mall contains many stores specialising in used textbooks and exam papers, as well as in more general books. The family-run Evernew Books is one of the stores you can visit. Here you will find English and Chinese novels, rare books, comics, literature, and art books, as well as educational materials.
Hang-out 1: The National Library and its local branches
After you have explored the Bras Basah complex, you can visit the National Library, which is just next door. Singapore’s libraries are surely amongst the best in the world; if you haven’t yet explored your local branch, you should do so at once, particularly if you have children, as the National Library Board offers many programmes for little ones, and for teens.
Hang-out 2: The Book Cafe
Keen readers should visit The Book Cafe, at the end of Mohamed Sultan Road. Here, a range of reading materials is available along with coffee. Customers can browse any of several hundred local and foreign books, magazines and newspapers. Facilities include free wifi, and plentiful power-points, so you will often see writers tapping away at their keyboards, as they linger over an all-day breakfast.
Photo: BooksActually’s Facebook page
About Rosie Milne
Rosie Milne has recently published Olivia & Sophia, a historical novel exploring the life of Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, through the eyes of his two very different wives. She writes a weekly blog for the UK’s Telegraph about life in Singapore, and reviews fiction for Asian Review of Books. She also runs Asian Books Blog. Her earlier novels are How To Change Your Life, about an editor of self-help books who tries to follow the advice in a self-help book, and Holding The Baby, which examines different attitudes to motherhood.